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February 1, 2010

Lessons from the Ice Storm

Last Thursday we were hit by a vicious ice storm, followed by 6" of snow on Friday. Our power went out on Thursday afternoon, came back on for one hour on Saturday, and went off again for another 16 hours, a total of 68.5 hours without electricity.

The weatherman had warned us this was coming, so on Tuesday I went to town looking for a few specific things: more propane canisters (the store shelves were bare), some junk food (comfort food for the teenager), and to top off the car with gas. Really, we were well-stocked-up even without this trip to town. We had plenty of propane, we had batteries, we had water, lamp oil, feed and hay, dog food, and so on. When I got home, I made bread, did the laundry and the dishes, filled the water jugs, tested the flashlights, and helped hubby move feed down to the horse barn.

The worst part of being without power was being cold. Our propane heater wasn't quite up to the job, though it was certainly better than nothing. At least we could put our gloves in front of it and get them semi-dry before we had to go outside again.

We ate well. We have an electric stove but used the propane camp stove to make oatmeal for breakfast, heat water, and warm up soup for lunches. For dinner:

- I made lamb stew on Thursday in the crockpot and it was mostly done when the power went off. I transferred it to the box cooker and it was hot and ready when we came inside from the evening chores. We ate it with sliced homemade bread.
- On Friday I opened a quart of chicken and broth I'd pressure-canned, added a can of white northern beans, dehydrated mushrooms and onions, and some spices for white chili. I brought it to a boil on the camp stove, then transferred to the box cooker.
- On Saturday we went into town for gasoline for our small generator - at this point the storm was long gone and the roads were good, we just didn't have power at home - and brought dinner home with us.
- Sunday I would have opened cans of beef stew, but since we had power we opened the freezer and cooked some chicken that felt slightly thawed. I also fried up the Mexican eggrolls our daughter had made and frozen awhile ago. The rest of the food was still solidly frozen. The refrigerator will have to be cleaned out, of course.

On Saturday when we went to town, the hardware store was full of families with dazed looks on their faces. The store had propane heaters but no propane; very expensive generators no one was buying; no fittings to convert a grill-size propane container to a propane heater. No candles. No D-size batteries. No lamp oil. A case of bottled water was $6.99. I was so thankful that we did not need those things. They were selling lots of sleds though.

A few things I learned:

- The straw box cooker worked GREAT! I used a picnic ice chest, lined with a blanket, and put a folded towel on the bottom for the pot to sit on. Bring your meal to a boil on the stove or other heat source, quickly put the pot in the box cooker, surround it with the blanket and shut the lid of the ice chest. By dinner time dinner was HOT and ready to eat. One point to consider: try it ahead of time and make sure that your pot fits inside. I'd brought in the more narrow ice chest and had a bit of a problem with that. The wider one is ... somewhere ... and would have worked better. After using, leave the lid up for awhile so any moisture will evaporate in the air and not cause mildew. The cooker really saves fuel.
- Start early in the afternoon to prepare for the evening while you still have plenty of light to see. Gather blankets, candles, flashlights so they are handy.
- Our propane heater uses approximately one canister of fuel per day.
- Even a little cat can help keep your lap warm.
- Putting food in the uninsulated mudroom worked as a refrigerator/freezer.
- We did not open the freezers at all, and almost all the food was fine after 68+ hours. (Our generator isn't big enough to handle the freezers.)

All in all, we weathered the storm well, but I'm sure glad we have power back again. What did I do first? Vacuumed the floor.


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